Good Samaritans save family from fire

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A reported good Samaritan who helped save occupants of a house on fire on Race Street in Farmville on Tuesday morning, Dec. 1, ended up being four different men, each of whom acted quickly to help their fellow community members.

Ed Elliott

The first to spot the subtle signs of the house fire were Ed Elliott and Dwayne Scott, members of the Farmville Department of Public Works who were in the process of working their trash collection route around 7:45 a.m.

Dwayne Scott

Elliott said Scott was walking down the street, and he asked Scott where the smoke he was seeing was coming from. Scott suggested someone was burning wood. Elliott said it was not wood burning, and they got a better idea of what was going on as they neared the house at 602 Race St.

“I’d seen smoke come from the ceiling,” Elliott said.

Director of Public Works Robin Atkins noted his employees often are not in a position where they can ideally carry phones on the job, and neither Elliott nor Scott had a cellphone on them that morning.

“So I ran across the street,” Elliott said. “Two guys were playing tennis. I said, ‘Do one of y’all have a cellphone?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Man, you’re going to have to call the fire department. I’m going to go ahead and knock on this door and get these people out of the house.’”

The two guys playing tennis were Wade Stimpson and Rhodes Martin.

Wade Stimpson

Stimpson said they were playing on the new Longwood University tennis courts, which were only a stone’s throw away from the house, but he credited Elliott and Scott for being keenly observant.

“We might not have seen the fire until it was flames shooting out of the house if they hadn’t said something,” Stimpson said.

Elliott said he and Scott banged on the door of the house.

“So the lady came to the door,” Elliott said. “I know the lady, her name is Ms. Jordan. I said, ‘Ms. Jordan, your ceiling is on fire. You’re going to have to get out of the house.’ And she said, ‘Oh, Lord.’ And she was panicked, and her son was in the house too.”

Elliott noted he went to the house next door and alerted the lady there of a potential hazard.

“I said, ‘Ma’am, you’d better move your car, because your car will catch on fire,’” he said. “So she got up and moved her car out of the way. Then the other two guys were playing tennis, (they) came over there and assisted us, made sure they’d got out of the house too.”

Rhodes Martin

After Elliott and Scott called to Stimpson and Martin about the fire, Stimpson recalled thinking, “Are you sure?” because he did not see any flames. But he took their word for it and bolted over to the house.

“I think I just ran straight into the house first and then called 911 as soon as we knew it wasn’t life-threatening for anybody,” Stimpson said.

But the occupants, who Elliott said had been asleep, needed to get out of the house, and the four men were urging them to do so.

They helped Ms. Jordan leave the premises.

“She was moving slow because she was in a little shock,” Elliott said.

Farmville Fire Department (FFD) Capt. Travis Finch said the department was dispatched at 7:50 a.m.

Stimpson estimated that was the time he called. He said it took about five minutes to get the people out of the house, and then maybe five minutes after that, the first fire unit arrived. Responding along with FFD were Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire & Rescue and Prospect Volunteer Fire Department.

Finch said the departments had the scene under control in 10 to 15 minutes.

“We just remained on scene doing overhaul for another hour,” he said.

Elliott said he was pleased Ms. Jordan did not lose the house.

“They got there in time to save it,” he said. “She’s just got to do a little work in the ceiling.”

Finch said the cause of the fire was an electrical short in the attic, adding that it was old wiring.

“It was under some blown-in insulation,” he said.

None of the four good Samaritans had ever been in a situation like this one before.

“First time,” Scott said.

Looking back on the event overall, the men involved commented on the speed of it.

“It was so fast,” Elliott said.

“Like Ed said, it happened so quick,” Scott said.

“There really wasn’t time to think,” Stimpson said. “It was just time to make sure that there was nobody in the house that was going to get stuck.”

He said he and Martin were excited to have helped.

Atkins noted Elliott and Scott have routes to finish and deadlines to meet each time they serve on the garbage crew.

“But I’m glad they stopped for this incident,” he said.

“It feels good to save somebody’s life,” Elliott said. “It’s a blessing.”